Raise your hand if you hate me, becuase I don't entirely blame you. It's been over a month, and everyday I've been displeased with myself for not having updated yet. My will to write has gone. I mean, the ideas are there, but I can't seem to get them down.

Okay, okay, put down the rotten tomatoes and let's get on with the story.


After her mother died, her dreams came to her more often. They normally consisted of her in that magical land her mother had once described in beautiful stories. Her mother was always there, smiling and happy, along with her father, who was, for once, not at all bothered about work and etc.

And, of course, she was there too. She had a lot of friends, just like the Mages her mother described. Fire-breathers, people who could walk on water, and even some who could fly. Oh, how she longed for those dreams to be true.

But then she woke up form her peaceful slumber, and the bliss she felt quickly vanished into thin air, along with her dreams.

At least they were better than the horrific nightmares where she watched her mother die over and over again.


X - Dreamworld

6 days, 4 towns, 3 hours and… she leaned over to check her wristwatch that she'd placed on her bedside table. She had bought it from Max at one of the booths in the carnival and it had the smiling face of Happy on the front, mocking her with all its might. 10 minutes. 6 days, 4 towns, 3 hours and 10 or so minutes had passed since that night where Loki had disappeared, where they had found out he was a Stellar Spirit, and where she'd had met the Stellar Spirit King.

Yet, out of all the incidents that had taken place that eventful night, there was only one thing eternally lodged in her mind, reluctant to leave. That ominous feeling, like someone was watching her with fixation, had never left her alone. She had assumed that had been someone her father had hired to track her down and bring her back, which made her relieved that she was successfully 4 whole towns away. But, that didn't stop her from wanting to go back and confront whoever had been watching her and, once and for all, tell her father to leave her alone.

And it could just be her stupid paranoia. After all, Natsu hadn't felt the deathly waves radiating through the air, and he had the enhanced senses of a dragon. It made her feel safe, knowing that Natsu was with her and ready to protect her if need be. Not to mention, there was Loki – or Leo, more correctly – too, and the rest of the Stellar Spirits.

She put her watch back down on the bedside table, and then reached into the first drawer, where she had placed her Keys before getting into bed. Breathe, Lucy, she told herself, sighing in relief. They're still there. She closed the drawer, and lied back down on her bed, her head meeting the feather-soft pillows. The ceiling above her was dark and dingy. She closed her eyes, willing the blissful sleep to come.

In all the 6 days, she hadn't gotten one moment of rest. Yes, she'd been able to sleep, but it had been neither restful nor blissful. It had involved a lot of tossing and turning and waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and even tears. Hazy white replaced pitch black and before she drifted off to sleep, she thought that maybe, just maybe, she would be lucky enough to have a peaceful night sleep.

Hazy white replaced the dark ceiling and she felt herself getting lighter and drifting off. But then the cloudy-white that had filed her sights was evaporating into the harsh blue on green, followed by the sound of the thrashing of the sea. Her eyes widened at the sight of the majestic ocean, and she blinked several times in attempt to clear her vision, unsure if she was really seeing the smooth yet severe waves of the sea. Yep, she sure was.

Okay, this must be a dream, she thought, scrutinizing every detail of her surroundings. Never had she ever been on a ship, not including that short boat trip out of her hometown. The boat she was on rocked back and fourth gentle, but a giant wave caused it to suddenly lean to the left; she lost her balance and fell to the wooden floor with a thud, landing on her sore bottom. So it still hurts in a dream. Just my luck.

The deck of the boat looked extremely similar to the pictures she had seen in books. In fact, it was alike to Captain Hook's boat, as seen in Peter Pan, and she almost expected Peter Pan to come flying in, leaving a trail of fairy dust at his tail. Hey, it was a dream. Anything could happen.

No imaginary characters were going to come jumping in to save the day, because she didn't need saving. The whole boat was filled with her friends – the Mages of the Fairy Tail Circus. Or, judging by the flag, the Mages of the Fairy Tail Pirate Crew. The deck stretched on for meters, the floor at her end dirty and the floor at the other end was gleaming clean. Although, that was mostly due to Jet and Droy, who were mopping the deck at the far end. As always, Levy wasn't that far away; hidden by the barrels and boxes surrounding her, Levy was sat at the corner of the boat, reading. Cana was seated on a barrel and was, not surprisingly, jugging down beer like no tomorrow.

"What are you doing on your butt, blondie?" a deep voice asked. Hastily, she stood up, nearly losing balance again because of the rocking of the boat, and her eyes darted to the owner of the hoarse and frightening voice.

"What are you doing?" she asked Gajeel, wondering if she should be scared of the horrifyingly large blade in his hand. No, it was more appropriate to call it a sword, due to its size.

"None of your business," he grumbled, turning his back on her so he was facing the ocean. She heard the sickening sound of a knife being sharpened but didn't linger to question him.

Up the few steps behind her was the steering wheel of the boat, being controlled by Laxus. She would have thought that Master Makarov (or Captain Makarov?) would've been steering, but she doubted that he could even reach the steering wheel. Evergreen stood next to Laxus and seemed to be navigating, her head lowered on the map in her heads, her glasses slipping from her face. Fried was staring out into the ocean at the front, telescope glued to his eye. Bixlow was snoozing in the corner, making no sound as the boat rocked and didn't disturb his slumber. His 'babies', however, were all lined up next to him. They seemed to make an eerie nasal sound, as if they were snoozing too.

Evergreen's head bounced up and she glared at Lucy. "What do you want?"

"Uh…"

"If you want to make yourself useful then go to the Kitchen or something," Ever snarled out. "GO!" she shouted out when Lucy stayed rooted to the spot.

Even though it's my dream, Ever still pushes me around. Quickly, Lucy turned around and bounced down the steps to the deck. She saw the doors at the end, and guessed that they led to the Kitchen. "Hey, Cana. Hi, Levy-chan," she called out to them as she passed them.

"Hi Lu-chan!" Levy trilled out, smiling warmly at her.

"Lookin' for Natsu?" Cana asked her after gulping down her drink.

"Eh, no. Evergreen told me to go help in the Kitchen," Lucy replied, although she was wondering where Natsu was.

"Figures," Cana said, rolling her eyes at the typical Evergreen behavior. Lucy said goodbye to them and then pushed through the doors. She sighed with relief, once seeing that they really did lead to the large porcelain-clean Kitchen. The counters against the walls were a gleaming white with ornate countertops. There were so many ovens and stoves and cabinets that it resembled her own Kitchen in her father's home, yet it was so much more magnificent and… homely. Or, maybe that was because Mirajane was there, smiling brightly as ever, clad in her usual dress but also with a white apron.

She quickly hustled towards Lucy, only to stop at the stove next to the blonde. Mirajane quickly turned the stove off, stopping the frying of the fish. "Hello, Lucy," Mirajane said, as she worked, not even turning to face her. "Are you here to help?"

"Uh, yes, sure am," Lucy said, even though she had never cooked in her life without burning the food or herself.

"Okay!" Mirajane turned to her, smiling gratefully at her, and Lucy smiled back. Mirajane whipped off her own apron and handed it to Lucy. "Here, put this on. I have to run to the basement and get more fish." She was already rushing to the door.

"Wait! What should I do?" Lucy asked, panicked.

"Elfman will help you. Thanks!" Mirajane told her before disappearing out of the door. Lucy stared after her, but followed orders and put on her apron and swiveled around, in search of Mira's 'manly' brother. And there he was, chef's hat perched proudly on his silver-white hair, expertly cooking steak. That was something Lucy had never thought she'd see, dream or real world.

"Hi, Lucy!" Wendy said, and Lucy stopped short at seeing her. Wendy was also clad in an apron on top of her dress, although hers was a pale pink, and the same went for her tiny hat.

"Hi, Wendy. Did you make these cupcakes?" she asked, referring to the plate of cupcakes in front of girl, some covered in pink icing.

"No, Mira-chan did. I'm just putting the icing on," Wendy replied with a shrug. There was a bit of icing on the tip her nose.

"Wait," Lucy said, reaching over the counter to the kitchen towels. She wiped the icing off Wendy's nose, who then blushed. Lucy paused in thought, realizing her motherly act. Speaking of motherly… "Where's Charle?"

"No cats in the Kitchen!" Elfman's voice boomed through the room, causing Wendy and Lucy to jump in fright. Lucy reeled around to face Elfman, who had stopped cooking for the time being. His hand wrapped around the handle of a large butcher's knife, was a sight which would have frightened Lucy if it hadn't been Elfman, Mirajane's brother, holding it. He didn't necessarily look angry or upset, only had that familiar look of determination on his face. "A man should not allow creatures that will shed hairs on his food into his room. That is why men where chef hats!" Elfman added, pointed proudly to his cap. "Right, Wendy?"

"Right, Chef-sama!" Wendy told him, saluting him and almost knocking her hat off. Lucy didn't bother to mention that Mirajane had not been wearing a chef's hair. "I've finished icing the cupcakes, Chef-sama."

"Put them in the cupboards," Elfman instructed her, and she obliged and took the plate of cupcakes into her dainty hands. "In the cupboard with the garlic and onions," he added.

"Why there?" Lucy asked, wrinkling hr nose, while Wendy followed through with her task.

"So the smell of garlic and onions stop Natsu from sniffing out the cupcakes," Wendy simply answered.

Ah, that made sense. "Lucy, go get Natsu, please," Elfman told her. She looked at him in puzzlement. They didn't want Natsu sniffing out the treats, but Elfman was ordering him to the Kitchen anyway? "It is the dragon-slayers turn for Kitchen duty," Elfman answered her unspoken question. "A man must fulfill his duty!"

"What about Gajeel?"

"Gajeel is a man! He has already done his job," Elfman told her, motioning to the neatly chopped pieces of meat. Lucy gulped, her fear of Gajeel increasing.

"What now, Chef-sama?"

"Chop up the onions," Lucy heard Elfman saw as she exited the Kitchen, but not before taking her apron off and placing it on one of the counters. "A man is allowed to cry in the presence of onions!"

"Elfman's looking for Natsu," Lucy told Cana and Levy once she was back out o on the deck. The wind had picked up and the journey was much rougher. "Have you seen him?"

Both Cana and Levy pointed to the doors on the other end of the ship, under the platform where Laxus and his team stood. Lucy continued in that direction, hoping that Evergreen would not go screaming at her again. She adverted her eyes when she saw the very naked Gray, lounging on a deck chair with Juvia hiding and drooling over him.

She pushed through the doors and nearly tripped down the stairs, not expecting the steps. As she descended the steps, she could hear the muffled murmurings of her friends through the thin walls. She reached the bottom of the stairs and traveled through the hallway, doors at both sides of her. Most of the doors were closed but the door to one was wide open. Curiously, she poked her head into the small and cozy room. It had a small, firmly shut, porthole, a desk, a dresser, and a bed, with both Loki and Aries sitting on it.

"Hi," she said, startled by the sight; Aries was lying down on the bed, her head on Loki's lap, while he sat and stroked her head.

"Lucy! Is something wrong?" Loki asked her.

"No, nothing. Is something wrong, Aries? Are you okay?" she asked, concerned, staring into Aries's unusual pale green face that clashed horrible with her pink hair.

"What?" Aries hurriedly sat up, nearly bumping heads with Loki. "No, Lucy-sama, I'm fi…" Aries's face turned lime green. Quickly, she laid back down, her hand gripping her bare her stomach. She winced in pain.

"She's just a little seasick," Loki explained, sympathetically squeezing Aries' shoulder. "Just let her get some rest."

Lucy nodded, said goodbye and left. It was only when she was several doors down that she realized that she hadn't even asked why the both of them were doing here, out in the real world. Well, it was a dream, so anything was possible. Her hand automatically went to her Keys – or, more correctly, to where her Keys should have been. Her precious Silver and Gold Keys weren't looped in her belt.

Don't panic, she told herself, and continued walking to distract herself. She screeched to a halt at one door, which was half-open. She peeked in, and was relieved to see Natsu, lying haphazardly on his bed, sleeping.

But, the room didn't look like Natsu's. For one, it was neat. Well, somewhat neat but not a pigsty. And the furniture was intact and… there were books. Books on the desk. The idiot! He's in my room – again! She stomped over to the desk and grabbed the first book there was and flung it at Natsu. He didn't even move. In that case… "Wake up, NATSU!" she screamed out, attacking him with the heaviest book she could find.

Startled, he fell off the bed with a thump that made Lucy feel accomplished. That was, until Natsu grabbed the pillow and swung it back at Lucy, hard. Who knew a pillow could hurt so much? she thought as she swiftly stood up and glowered at Natsu. "Why'd you do that?" she shouted.

"You hit me first!" Natsu countered, stretching.

Lucy grabbed another book. "You're—the—one—in—my—room!" she shouted as she smacked him repeatedly with the hardback book. He flinched every time, although she was sure it couldn't have hurt him that badly.

"But your room has the best bed!" Natsu told her.

"That doesn't give you the right to sleep in it!" she told him, aggravated. No matter where I am, he never fails to annoy me… Her thoughts were broken off by a loud shriek that assaulted their ears. She looked at Natsu with wide and horrified eyes. It had been the most ear-piercing sound she'd every heard, full of fear and panic.

"Wait here!" Natsu told her before zooming off. His command fell on deaf ears because she quickly followed him. She bounded up the steps; the only sound reaching her ears was the continued screaming that made her dig her fingernails in her palms.

"What's going on?" said Loki in panic, coming up the stairs behind her. Aries wasn't far behind.

"I don't know," she mumbled to him, and then they finally reached the deck.

She gasped. At the left of the boat was the most terrifying monster she'd seen in her entire life. Forget the Lock Ness Monster and the ticking crocodile in Peter Pan, this was much worse. It was the size of a giant shark, but with silver-green scaly skin and ferocious turquoise eyes. Its mouth was like a shark's, too, with over 50 sharp teeth to count, ready to bite at them. Its turquoise eyes narrowed at them, vicious and searching for its next meal.

"What's going on? Who's screaming?" Lucy asked, gaping in horror. She could distinctly hear Evergreen screaming at Laxus to turn the boat around while Cana, Levy, Jet, Droy and everyone else on the deck fought with the monster. Only, the monster wasn't at all backing down. It only bared its teeth at them, biting at everything that came its way as if it had a bigger appetite that Natsu and Gray combined. It thrashed its two fins about too, but they were roughly the size of two wardrobes.

And then Lucy spotted the source of the screaming. It hadn't been someone on the deck, whom had just spotted the monster. No, it was poor Aquarius, who was out in the ocean, continually being snapped at by the monster and its sharp teeth, unable to escape. Her blue hair was messy and bedraggled, not at all the silky form it usually was. A look of terror was etched on her face. Her urn, her precious urn which her only weapon and the most valuable thing she owned, had a very large dent.

"Aquarius!" Lucy bounded towards her helpless Stellar Spirit, whom she cared for no matter how badly the mermaid treated her in return, but was stopped by Loki. He was gripping the hem of her shirt with such force that made it impossible for her to escape his grasp. She coldly stared at him, the temperature dropping all around them; he returned her hard glare with a stern look of his own that managed to look grim and solemn, even through his stylish sunglasses and with his vivid flower-pattern Hawaiian shirt.

"It's too dangerous," he told her, his voice severe.

"She's my friend."

"You're my friend too," he said, "and I'm not going to let you get hurt."

"But-"

"This isn't in your element." She glowered at him, her eyes piercing through his tanned skin. "I mean, we're in the middle of the ocean. Leave this to Gray and Juvia."

He released his grip on her shirt, but she didn't stop glaring at him until a chunk of wood came flying their way. They both quickly ducked before it smashed into them and then Lucy hastily stood up, searching from where the broken bit of wood had come from. Apparently, Juvia had attempted to boil the monster with her deadliest attack, Sierra, but had been knocked back by a humongous fin with such force that she'd crashed onto the floor that it nearly crumbled under her.

Gray, shocked that the enemy had been able to knock out Juvia, quickly attacked back by attempting to freeze the monster. Lucy watched, shell-shocked, while the scales on the shark-like creature began to change from sea-green to pale green and white with ice and frost. The movements of the beat slowed, until it finally stopped and Aquarius's screaming finally drew to a halt too.

Loki sighed with relief, but Lucy knew that all was not over yet. As expected, a crunching cracking sound echoed through the empty sea. The ice shattered and sent pieces of icicles flying in all directions. Lucy ducked again, but Loki wasn't so fast. The ice pierced his chest. He crumbled to the floor, gasping.

"Loki!" Lucy screamed, crawling up to him. Her heart lurched, as did the boat, and her tears began to water as she inspected his body. The icicle was stuck straight in his heart, sticking out at nearly 2ft tall. Blood was seeping out of his wound, redder that Natsu's fire, redder than Erza's hair, and redder than her piercing anger at the beast that had caused Loki's pain.

"Leo!" Aries came running, too, tears streaking down her cheeks. She fell to her knees and kneeled by his body, sobbing. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"… I'm… fine…" he croaked out, his voice limp like his body. The blood trickled to the floor, and she felt the warm redness touch her knees as she kneeled by his paling body.

"Is it… can we…?" she wondered, gulping. Hesitantly, she touched the icicle at Loki's heart. It was freezing cold and brittle. Cautiously, she wrapped her hand around the icicle in attempt to pull it out. Could that possible save Loki? She pulled a little, and Loki groaned in pain, such a horrible sound that Lucy's grip went limp and a new flood of tears poured out of Aries. "Wendy," Lucy suddenly thought aloud. She glanced around, looking for any sign of the petite Healer girl. "Wendy!" she screamed out, her voice hoarse and more tears threatening to fall.

"Lucy-chan…?" she heard Wendy's voice from behind her. Lucy turned her head and saw the small girl, who looked even smaller and frailer now, trembling. Wendy's eyes widened at the sight of Loki and she kneeled down next to Lucy, not caring the slightest that the hem of her dress was getting drenched in blood.

"Can you… Wendy, can you…?" Aries struggled to ask.

Wendy silently shook her head, sparkling tears rolling down her rosy cheeks. "It's too late," she choked out. Aries let out the most hurt hollow sob of all time and Lucy bit her lip from doing the same. With a trembling hand, the Stellar Spirit took off the sunglasses from Loki's eyes. His eyes were already vacant and misty. In death, they showed nothing. Nothing of his past, of the journey's he'd embarked on, or the love he'd felt. They were only hollow pieces of ice, while the blood that still poured from him might as well have been boiling.

Fight fire with fire and you only get burnt. Fight water with water and you drown. There had to be alternative, right? And there was, and his name was Natsu. Lucy dragged her eyes away from Loki, and her eyes immediately met with Natsu. He was about to attack, but their gazes locked. She could feel his dark eyes searching her lighter brown ones. And then his eyes narrowed, and Lucy saw something over than determination and eagerness fuel his fire. It was red-hot anger at the beast for taking the life of his friend Loki, and for making Lucy and Wendy and even Aries cry also. She could feel the anger radiating from him from all the way on the other side of the boat. Not only that, but it was radiating from Aries too.

"Aries…?" Lucy whispered out to the Stellar Spirit. The pink-haired girl didn't look up, only kept her head down, staring into Loki's eyes but never seeing her friend looking back at her. "Aries?" Cautiously, Lucy reached out to hold Aries's pale hand that the Stellar Spirit had clutching the hem of Loki's bloodstained shirt. However, before she could even make contact, Aries flinched her hand away and her head shot up to meet Lucy's brown eyes.

Instead of seeing chocolate brown eyes staring back at her, Lucy saw scarlet-red, the red of blood and anguish, in Aries' eyes. Before the blonde could say a word, Aries was already up and bouncing towards the monster to avenge Loki's death. "Aries!" Lucy shouted after her, hastily finding her balance and standing up. Wendy quickly followed behind her. Lucy could hear the smaller girl still sniffing, and was sad that she even dragged Wendy into this mess.

"Wool Bomb!" Aries attacked, while Natsu did also with his deathly fire. The beast flapped away the fire like it was nothing but a pesky fly. Embers of flame bounced off the monster and onto Aries. The fire fed on the very flammable wool, suddenly blazing brightly. The fire licked at Aries' clothes and her bare arms, and she could only screech in return.

"No!" Lucy screamed again, seeing another one of her Stellar Spirits in pain. "Aries!" The Stellar Spirit was oblivious to everything and everyone who was attempting to help her extinguish the fire that was licking at her bare arms and tarnishing her soft pink hair. Her hair, her clothes, everything was red and burning with rage. The red bled into her sight, like an ever-burning fire with no hope of being extinguished…

Then red faded to pink like an ending sunrise. The sky had became clear again. Screams faded away into silence.

Lucy blinked.

What was that? All was still, with no gentle or harsh rocking of a boat. A sigh of relief left her lips. It had just been a nightmare. She was in her bedroom, in her bed, under the duvet-

Huh? She wondered, sitting up. A chill ran down her spine. Not from fear of any sort, but from the cold. Her duvet wasn't covering her. Not to mention, the sound of snoring was in the room. Natsu. Frowning, she edged to the other end of the bed and looked over. Natsu was lying haphazardly on the cold hard floor, peacefully sleeping, half covered by her duvet that he'd dragged to the floor.

She smiled upon seeing him looking so calm, rather than a picture of anger like in her nightmare. Sighing, she scooted back to the other side of her bed and swung her legs over the side. Loudly yawning, she stood up and stretched ad started to get ready. She hoped that an early morning shower would not only wash away her sleepiness but the remnants of her nightmare.

Only three people would be up at dawn: Mirajane, who always started breakfast early on; Elfman, who either trained or helped his sister prepare the meals; and Vijeeter, who did something between yoga and Taekwondo in the morning as exercise.

Who was never awake by noon, nonetheless dawn, was Gray. While talking a walk to clear her mind and breathe in the fresh air that was cooler than the humid atmosphere in her room, Lucy found her friend Gray slumped on a large boulder. As usual, Gay was shirtless, but was actually wearing pants this time. He was sitting on the large rock, not at all fazed by the discomfort he must have been feeling from sitting on something so rough and bumpy, with his eyes half-closed. He kept on clenching and un-clenching his fists, a look of anger flashing across his face before being replaced by a look of sorrow.

Swiftly, he looked up and their eyes met. He must have heard her footsteps. He quickly masked his sadness with an expression of solemn. "H- hi, Gray," she hesitantly said to the Ice Mage.

"Hey," he replied, his voice in a dull monotone. Lucy almost winced. She wasn't dumb – she had seen the change in Gray as soon as he had discovered that his close friend Loki was really Leo, the Lion. He felt betrayed that his best friend had never told him the truth; not to mention, Gray was angry that that Loki had left without a word while knowing full well that he was dying.

"Are you okay?"

"Fine," he grumbled in reply. She stayed rooted to the spot, earnestly staring at him. "I'm fine," he told her, more sternly, his beady eyes piercing into her like harsh lasers ripping at her skin.

Slowly, she retreated, and Gray let his gaze slip away from her. But, just before he looked away, Lucy caught the glint of sadness and misery in his ice-cold eyes. It pained her to know that she was part of the reason why Gray was upset. But what else was she to do? Loki had been dying and now, he was once again replenished and healthy as ever, continuing his thwarted life as a Stellar Spirit. Her Stellar Spirit.

As she walked back, she spotted the head of curly bright that was peaking out from one of the large bushes that bordered the area. "What are you doing, Juvia?" she asked the Water Mage, who was crouched on the floor, hiding behind the wild green bush.

Juvia's head tilted up to look at Lucy. "Ah, Lucy-san, my love rival."

"I'm not your-"

"Lucy-san was talking to Gray-sama," Juvia said, standing up. Her voice wasn't tainted with the usual over-exaggerated sorrow when she talked about Lucy's attempts to 'steal' her beloved Gray away from her; nor was she melodramatically angry and boiling with rage. "But even Lucy-san was not able to cheer up Gray-sama." Juvia gave out a sigh full of dejection.

Shyly, Lucy held out her hand and Juvia looked at it dubiously, then back up at Lucy. But then she smiled and graciously took her hand, and Lucy pulled Juvia up to her feet. Lucy had never seen Juvia like this. So upset and… human. Now, Lucy could see how much Juvia truly cared for Gray, proving that what Juvia felt for Gray wasn't just some innocent crush because she thought Gray was 'sooooo handsome'. It was love, and Juvia was heartbroken that Gray was so miserable. "Maybe we should just give Gray some time?" Lucy suggested.

"Juvia hopes that will work," she mumbled. Light blue eyes found brown. There was something in the midst of the deep blue eyes, the color of the calm ocean, which made Lucy feel like she was drowning. It reminded her of her dream – more like nightmare – and Lucy could almost see the scaly monster reflecting in Juvia's blue eyes that almost seemed sea green.

"Juvia? Lucy?"

Both of them broke eye contact to turn to the source of the voice. Timid Wendy was shyly smiling up at them, shuffling her sandal-clad feet. "Hello, Wendy-chan," Juvia said, plastering on a fake large smile.

"Uh, hi Wendy," Lucy said. "Why are you up so early?"

"Charle had a nightmare," Wendy sheepishly told them, although there was worry in her eyes. Did she have the same nightmare…? "And then I took a walk while she got more sleep. Master found me and said to find you two."

"He did? Why?"

Wendy only shrugged, nonplussed. "I don't know, but he told me to get Gray too."

Lucy furrowed her brow in thought, while Juvia's eyes widened with exaggerated excitement. "Gray-sama!" Juvia repeated, gaping. "Master is calling Gray-sama too!" her mind drifted off into a daydream, her voice becoming more wistful as she spoke.

Wendy glanced over to where Gray was slumped. "Is he okay?"

"I… don't know."

Wendy warily walked up to him and Lucy watched as the smaller girl talked to Gray. She couldn't hear them talking, but could see Gray being solemn and not smiling at all. Wendy looked more than uncomfortable talking to him. Gingerly, Wendy started walking away, but Gray followed her, walking lazily towards them.

"Master's waiting for us at the back," Wendy told them, pointing north. She started to walk ahead of them, a little skip in her step, and the three of them followed – Lucy curious, Gray nonchalant and Juvia struggling to keep her balance as she stared hungrily at Gray.

The small, but still fearsome and strong, Master Makarov was sat on a barrel – no doubt full with beer, for Cana – and Natsu was sat on the floor, eyelids drooping and close to falling asleep all over again. Happy lay in his lap, fast asleep. Lisanna, silky white hair still bedraggled as if she had just woken up, stood by Master, her eyelids half-closed.

Lisanna greeted them with sleepiness, stifling a yawn. Natsu made no sound. While the girls greeted Master and Lisanna, Gray stood with his arms crossed, half-scowling. "What's all this about?"

Makarov narrowed his eyes at the Ice Mage. He'd known Gray ever since he was a child, and knew him well enough to sense when he was angry or aggravated. But now, Gray was feeling something was very different from what he felt when he argued and fought with Natsu. However, Makarov just cleared his throat, about to speak, when he stopped because of a loud snore.

"Natsu!" Master shouted at the pink-haired boy, who had managed to fall asleep while still sitting up straight. "Wake up!" Natsu made no move, only continued to snore.

"Wake up, flame head!" Gray growled, giving Natsu a swift kick. Immediately, Natsu jumped up and Happy fell to the floor with a thud.

"You wanna go, Ice boy?" Natsu glared at Gray.

"At least ice doesn't melt my brain," Gray countered, the anger dissolving into the usual annoyance he felt whenever he talked to Natsu.

"Melt your brain? Like you even have one!"

"Boys!" Master shouted, and the two boys thwarted. "Enough. If you two can't get along now, then there are no hopes that you two can tolerate each other for a two-day cruise."

"Cruise?" the girls did a double take, while the boys just looked at Master with confusion. "A cruise on a boat?" Lisanna asked. Natsu paled.

"Yes," Makarov replied, glancing at Natsu. Yesterday, I was approached by a man named Masaru Shinji." Lucy felt an icy chill go down her spine. Why does something seem weird about that name? "He was interested in hiring some of you to perform for a cruise."

Excitement jolted through Lucy, as it did with the other girls, but it quickly vanished once the memory of last night popped into her mind. That nightmare… the sea… how would she be able to stay on a boat with that nightmare still on her mind?

"I know what you're thinking, Lucy," Makarov said, jolting Lucy from her thoughts. She looked at him with wide eyes. "I know you're not a performer," Makarov went on and Lucy was conflicted, not knowing if she should be happy that Master had no idea about her nightmare, or upset that she couldn't talk to him about it. She went with happy. "But, we need assistants to help out. Not to mention, keep an eye on these two," he nodded to Gray and Natsu. "The same goes for you, Wendy."

Wendy grinned with excitement. "Can Charle come too?"

"Of course. And Happy."

"I don't want to go," Natsu said and all eyes darted to him. He was turning a sickly green. "I… I… Idontlikeboats."

"What'd you say?" Gray teasingly asked.

Natsu clenched his fists. "I don't like boats. There, I said it!" he said through gritted teeth. "I hate them and I'm not staying on one for two whole days!"

Lucy sighed. She'd forgotten about his motion sickness. "What if I told you that it paid 5 million jewels?" Master asked, unfazed by Natsu's confession. Gray's eyes widened, and the girls literally gasped. 5 million jewels? That was a hell of a lot of money.

Natsu even seemed to be considering it. He groaned. "Still no. I won't even be able to perform."

"He'll be puking the whole journey," Gray said, wrinkling his nose.

"I can help," Wendy said. She blushed when their gazes fell on her. "I mean, I can use my healing abilities. It's the least I could do since I can't perform."

"Are you sure, Wendy?" Master Makarov asked her, although he was certain that she was determined to help in anyway possible. Wendy was sweet that way. The small girl nodded, and Makarov smiled. "Okay, then it's settled. The eight of you, including Happy and Charle, will be performing on Masaru Shinji's singles cruise."

There it was again. That foreboding atmosphere thickening as soon as someone spoke that man's name. Lucy pushed it away and celebrated with her friends, ignoring the voice in the back of her mind that was begging her not to go on the cruise.

It was not only Lucy who felt that something was awry about the man named Masaru Shinji, not to mention the cruise in general. Charle frowned disapprovingly as Wendy gushed out all the details Master had told her about the impending cruise that they'd be attending. Her frown deepened when she heard the name of the man whom had hired them to perform.

"Charle? What's wrong?" Wendy asked her best friend. She looked at Charle with concern in her soft eyes.

"I don't want you to go on this cruise," she bluntly told Wendy, who's eyes widened with surprise.

"But why?" Wendy asked, hugging her pink throw pillow to her chest and leaning against the headboard of her bed. "I mean, I was really looking forward to it."

The girl was biting her lip, with her eyes wide with sorrow and disappointment. Charle sighed. "I just… I have a bad feeling about this." She didn't want to worry Wendy about matters like these, especially since the girl had been so excited and needed a break, but the skin-crawling feeling Charle had was too sinister to ignore.

"Is it about that nightmare you had?" Wendy asked, leaning closer to Charle who sat at the foot of the bed.

"It's nothing," Charle told Wendy, shaking her head. Even thinking about that horrendous hazy nightmare - that had seemed so real at the time - made her shudder. It flashed repeatedly in her head, like a video forever replaying in her mind. Her head ached and all she wished to do was sleep and forget, but she only feared that the nightmare would pop up once again to taunt her.

Foresight was a gift, Charle knew, and few were lucky to have it. It enabled her to see the future, and see dangers that were arising; it came in handy because she could protect the naïve Wendy from the impending dangerous situations. However, never had she foreseen something so ominous and disturbing that caused her skin to crawl and her sweat to drop. The ominous atmosphere was thickening as she attempted to decipher her vision, and somehow she found herself drifting towards the drunken heathen's booth.

Cana, although unable to have premonitions, was also a psychic and could predict the future through tarot cards. Although Charle had thought of the matter as being a hoax and just the act of guesswork, Cana had proven that her cards held magic within them that not only allowed her to use them as weapons, but also allowed her to see the future of others. Charle did not want to admit it, but the drunken girl was a decent psychic. And, who knew? Maybe she also had an ominous feeling welling in the deep depths of her heart.

Determinedly, Charle walked into Cana's dark tent, ignoring the sign stating she was on her break and the stink waves emitting from the area. As expected, the tent stank of alcohol – a thick stench that nearly made Charle vomit in disgust. "I'm on my break, idiot," Charle heard Cana say from the shadows.

"Aren't you always?" Charle dully replied. Cana frowned from her seat on the thick red armchair, but then she glanced down and spotted the small cat-like figure and her eyes widened in surprise.

"Charle," Cana said, a hint of bitterness in her voice. "Pull up a chair – y'know, if you can reach," she added, nodding to the seat opposite her with a smirk on her face.

Glowering, Charle jumped up and sat down on the chair so she was closer eye-level with Cana, with only a table between them. Neither of them got along with one another, but Charle didn't necessarily get along with anyone other than Wendy, the girl whom she had taken under her wing and deeply cared for. Charle reminded herself of the small girl, who was too innocent and naïve to deserve any sort fo misfortune to fall on her path, and shifted in her seat. Wendy was the reason why she was here in the first place – not in Cana's booth, but in this damn circus to begin with – and Charle needed to do whatever it took to protect her.

It didn't help that Cana was acting like a rude drunken buffoon. "Where's your shadow?" Cana asked, eyes drifting towards the entrance of the tent, where Wendy was nowhere in sight. "Or, is it the other way around?"

"I am not Wendy's shadow or pet," Charle snapped at Cana, who raised her free hand up in a sign of surrender while her other hand gripped her beer bottle. "Neither is it the other way around… I care for her," she slowly added, her gaze drifting to the discarded stack of tarot cards laid on the table. Would Cana be able to predict the future of Wendy's without the girl ever finding out? The last thing Charle wanted was for Wendy find out about her vision and start fretting.

"You had a premonition about her," Cana stated, causing Charle to hastily look up. Their gazes locked and Cana quirked a playful eyebrow. There was no use denying it. "Is it about the cruise they're going to go on?"

Yes. "What makes you say that?" Charle stoically asked, not wanting to give anything away. She was half-hoping that Cana was feeling the same way as she was, half-dreading it also because it meant that Wendy really was in danger.

"Because there's something wrong with the trip," Cana told her after taking a swig of her drink. "I mean, other than that Master isn't letting me go to."

"Oh, please, all you want is to drink the ship's supply of alcohol." Charle rolled her eyes. Cana opened her mouth to object, but then just laid back into her chair and nodded in agreement. "What does this have to do with anything?" Charle hissed, annoyed. "Why do you think something is wrong with the cruise?" Her eyes drifted back to the tarot cards.

"I have a weird feeling about it, okay?" Cana admitted.

Charle narrowed her eyes. "That's it?" she asked through gritted teeth. "A weird feeling? Nothing to do with your stupid tarot cards?" Cana glared at her, eyes blazing with anger. "I shouldn't have wasted my time talking to mediocre Mage like you."

Cana looked close to snapping. Her hand clenched around her bottle, so hard the glass could have shattered. She hated that people questioned the certainty of her tarot cards. They were incredulous about her ability to tell their future through her cards and it made her grit her teeth just thinking about it. It had happened many times, ever since they'd stopped being a Guild and started being a circus. Back in Fiore, no one would be skeptical about her powers because she was a Mage, but here they would roll their eyes at the fortune and believe it was all a hoax to get their 'precious' jewels. She'd gotten so aggravated that she never even worked her stupid booth anymore, just stayed on break.

But now, an average human wasn't doubtful about her magic. No, it was a creature that knew all about magic and even wielded some of her, who was skeptical about her ability to predict fortunes and that made it even worse. But Cana wasn't going to have any of that anymore. She no longer cared who doubted her powers because she believed in herself and that was all that mattered. Angrily, she set her bottle down on the table with a loud thud that made Charle wince, and reached for the stack of tarot cards and started shuffling the deck. Charle watched her with suspicious eyes.

"What'd you see in your premonition?" Cana asked.

"I don't see how that's any of your business," the white creature stoically replied, eyes fixed on the cards Cana held in her hands. Cana stopped shuffling and gave Charle a pointed look. The cat-like creature's lips curled but nonetheless told her, "That Lucy girl was crying. As was Juvia, but what's new there?"

"Anything else…?" Cana asked, slowly started to continue to shuffle the deck.

"Natsu covered in flames and fighting. And the Ice Mage also," Charle rolled her eyes at the boys' destructive behavior. "And… a black aura," she added in a whisper, causing Cana to lean in to hear her. "An aura of hate and greed surrounding a man who will go to any means to get what he wants." Charle shuddered.

Cana's eyes widened. She'd never seen Charle so scared before. "And…?"

Charle sighed. "Numbing waves of the sea. That's all." Charle glared at the card Mage's stilled hands. "Well, are you finished?" she asked, irritated.

Cana pursed her lips. And here she had been starting to think the cat was tolerable. "Yeah," she told her and placed the deck of cards back on the table. She took the first tarot card on the deck and laid it out on the table for both girls to be able to see it.

On the tarot card was the beautiful figure of a woman with long curly blond hair and an angelic face, sitting on a large jagged rock found in the sea. However, from the waist down, where her legs would have been, there was a long scaly tail of a mermaid.

Charle glowered at the card, lasers almost beaming from her eyes with all the fury that they were emitting. "What's this?" she asked, glaring at Cana. "Mermaids? I have to be on the look for mermaids while on the cruise?"

"What do I know? I'm just a mediocre Mage," Cana snarled back at Charle.

"I'm leaving," Charle hopped off the chair and angrily stalked off.

"Sorry to have wasted your time," Cana sarcastically called after her. She rolled her eyes and pulled a face after Charle had left. She looked back at the tarot card, and the mermaid smiled ruefully at her, although Cana was sure that it was silently mocking her for being dissed by a freakin' cat.

Charle thinks she's so effing smart. If Charle had not judged Cana's fortune-telling abilities and stormed off so quickly, Cana would have slowly explained that the card didn't signify that she would be encountering a mermaid. Mermaids were majestic creatures, but they weren't all that they appeared to be. They were beautiful and gave off the aura of sweetness and kindness, everything about them enticing and alluring lonely sailors travelling through the ocean. But inside there attractive bodies were cold hearts and devious and malicious minds. They were alive, sadistic, and they could very well be the death of you.

And they taught those poor sailors a lesson: never judge anything by first sight. Not like those sailors could live to tell the tale, Cana bitterly thought. Something may seem innocent and even a blessing first, would soon turn out to be some unearthly misfortune.

Meaning that the cruise that Natsu and then were going to go on to perform? Not something to be overjoyed about.

Cana sighed. She wondered if she should go back, find Charle, and explain everything to her. One part of her, the smug and stubborn part, didn't want to tell Charle because the stupid cat had been all self-righteous.

How dare she? Cana thought it outrage. She grabbed her bottle and took a long swig. She only started premonitions a few months ago! I've been a card Mage for years!

Angrily, she knocked over the stack of tarot cards with a flick of her free hand. All the cards went sprawling across the table and Cana almost poured the rest of her drink over them in annoyance, but stopped. Huh. One card, other than the mermaid tarot card, was face up, while the others were face down. Gingerly, she reached over and took the card between her index and middle finger.

Aquarius? The card showed the sign of one of the Zodiacs, Aquarius. What does this have to do with anything? She wondered, her eyes darting back to the mermaid card. Furiously, Cana slammed the bottle down on the table for the second time now. She had thought that the mermaid tarot card was a metaphor of some sort, but adding it to the Aquarius tarot card, it reminded her of the Stellar Spirit Aquarius, whom was a mermaid.

Groaning, Cana leaned over and grabbed another beer bottle from the floor. She took a long, hard gulp, hoping that the alcohol would take the confusion away like it did with her pain. She knew that if she drank enough, everything of that night would be forgotten by tomorrow. Still, she kept drinking, eyes bouncing from one card to the next.

Stellar Spirits… Stellar Spirit Mages… She paused, mid-gulp. Lucy?


So, nearly 150 reviews. Wow. With the way I've been updating, I don't deserve 9/10 of them.

So, speaking of fractions, I have about 7/10 of the next chapter down, but I can't find the will to write. I'll just pace my way through, doing at least 100 words a day. Be warned, though, by how little the story flows.

Anyone willing to offer their help?